In January 2022, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced the city had discovered an offensive meme in police training materials.
The discovery of the meme, which depicts violence against protesters and is affiliated with the far-right movement, ignited a firestorm.
Now, more than a year later, the Portland Police Bureau is disciplining the officer it suspects of having added “The Prayer of the Alt-Knight” meme to the presentation. Sgt. Jeffrey McDaniel has been suspended 100 hours without pay.
McDaniel strenuously denied the allegation. “I wouldn’t have put it in there, and I wouldn’t have authorized it to be put in there,” he told investigators.
But he was in charge of the Rapid Response Team training, and the earliest copy of the presentation found by the bureau on its servers was last saved by him. He admitted he may have shared the meme in a text to his father at the time.
The presentation, entitled “Disturbance History Crowd Dynamics,” was from 2015 and was used as recently as 2018 in Oregon Basic Rapid Response Team training. The 50-member RRT resigned en masse in 2021 following the indictment of a fellow officer for striking a protester.
When Cmdr. Craig Dobson confronted McDaniel in 2018 after seeing the meme being presented at training, McDaniel told him the meme was included “for humor,” Dobson said.
The bureau initially proposed firing McDaniel for the offense.
But, Police Chief Chuck Lovell noted, “I believe that you understand the significant harm caused by allowing this meme.”
And McDaniel’s union, the Portland Police Association, argued that although McDaniel was “responsible for not catching the fact that the meme was included in the slide deck, the evidence did not prove that [he] added the meme to it,” according to a disciplinary letter dated Feb. 21 and signed by Lovell, Wheeler and McDaniel.
Ultimately, Lovell concluded, “it is more likely than not that you added the meme to the slide deck,” and suspended him.
PPA president Sgt. Aaron Schmautz tells WW he is still reviewing the letter and could not comment.
The letter cites a 2018 Willamette Week story that reported activists suspected police officers of holding sympathies for right-wing protesters. The discovery of the “dirty hippy” meme affirmed those suspicions.
McDaniel has been the subject of several lawsuits, most famously after being caught on camera pepper spraying a protester in the mouth.
“Putting this meme in the training document absolutely destroyed the city of Portland’s ability to discuss the amount of professional training officers received in crowd management theory and techniques without having to simultaneously defend why such a professional team would allow this sort of inappropriate material into their documents,” Lovell noted.